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“Ethical” cheating in formal education

Arthur M. Harkins (Associate Professor based in the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, USA)
George H. Kubik (Technical Adviser at the University of Minnesota, St Paul, USA)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 18 May 2010




The purpose of this paper is to emphasize the importance of modern and forward‐looking educational practices that encourage learner development of open sourcing and collaboration as being desirable competencies for twenty‐first century knowledge and innovation workers. Its intent is to employ the topic of “ethical cheating” as the springboard for opening a constructive dialogue between historic traditions of academic ethics and the emergence of digital‐age learners who are already functioning as digital pioneers, innovators, and content contributors in an increasingly connected, rapidly‐paced world.


The paper examines the subject of academic cheating in the context of emerging high‐technology environments. It defines the term “ethical” cheating from the perspective of digital‐age learning and contrasts it with traditional academic views of cheating in classical educational situations.


Rapid developments in digital information technologies such as cell‐phones, pdas, and the internet are profoundly changing student attitudes toward what constitutes cheating in academic settings. The presence of widespread high‐tech devices already enables increasing numbers of learners around the globe to participate in extensive and ongoing collaborative and open‐source activities that reflect competitive business practices but run counter to the accepted norms of traditional educational institutions. The introduction of the term “ethical cheating” here reflects the growing dissonance between traditional academic views of ethical standards and the impatience of learners straining to become twenty‐first century workers and societal members. A new dialogue is needed to reconcile these differences.


The paper introduces the term “ethical cheating” as a springboard to initiate a new dialogue between traditional academic norms and the emergence of new student attitudes regarding the use of digital technologies that facilitate learning through open‐sourcing and collaboration.



Harkins, A.M. and Kubik, G.H. (2010), "“Ethical” cheating in formal education", On the Horizon, Vol. 18 No. 2, pp. 138-146.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2010, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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